Bob Dylan, the poet laureate of the rock era, whose work has influenced generations of composers and densely been analyzed by fans, critics and academics, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday.
It is the first time the honor has gone to a musician. In its statement, the Swedish Academy Mr. Dylan credited with “creating new poetic expressions within the great tradition of American song.”
Dylan choice for the highest literary award in the world came as something of a surprise and was seen as an expansion of the traditional notions of the art academy. Dylan, 75, joins a pantheon including T. S. Eliot, Gabriel García Márquez, Samuel Beckett and Toni Morrison – the last American to claim the prize in 1993.
“The old categories of major and minor art, which have been collapsing for a long time,” said David Hajdu, a music critic of The Nation who has written extensively about Mr. Dylan and his contemporaries, “but this is what was done official.”
In the election of a popular musician to one of the most coveted in the world of literature prize, the Swedish Academy drastically redefined the boundaries of literature, which triggered a debate about whether lyrics have the same artistic value as poetry or novels.
“Most of the lyrics really do not stand without the music, and not supposed to,” the poet Billy Collins said. “Bob Dylan is in the middle of a 2 percent of the composers whose lyrics are interesting on the page, even without the harmonica and guitar and his very distinctive voice. I think he qualifies as poetry.”
In previous years, writers and publishers have complained that the academy seems to favor obscure writers with clear political messages about the most popular figures – Recent winners have included the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer and the German novelist Herta Müller. But in choosing someone as well known and commercially successful, and so far outside the literary traditions established, the academy seems to have swung far in the other direction.
It is not the first time that has extended the definition of literature. In 1953, Winston Churchill received the award, partly in recognition of the literary qualities of their growing political speeches and “brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values” according to the academy. And many were surprised last year when the prize went to the Belarusian journalist Svetlana Alexievich, whose narratives deeply reported draw on oral history. Still, Mr. Dylan is perhaps the most radical option in the 115 year history of the prize for literature.
Sara Danius, a scholar of literature and the permanent secretary of the 18-member of the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize, called Dylan “a great poet in the tradition of English-speaking” and compared him to Homer and Sappho, whose work was delivered orally. He was asked whether the decision to award the prize to a musician pointed to a broadening of the definition of literature, Ms. Danius replied, “Times are changing, perhaps,” he refers to one of Dylan’s songs.
The election was hailed around the cultural and political spectrum. In Twitter, President Obama offered “congratulations to one of my favorite poets,” while Rosanne Cash, composer and daughter of Johnny Cash wrote simply: “Holy Mother of God Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize.”.
In the world of literature, the election of Mr. Dylan held an undercurrent of dissent.
On Twitter, Salman Rushdie called Dylan “the brilliant heir to the tradition of the bards,” adding, “A great choice.” But others, including novelists Laila Lalami and Rabih Alameddine, took the Academy to task for his choice. “Bob Dylan win a Nobel Prize for Literature is like Mrs. Fields being awarded 3 Michelin stars,” Mr. Alameddine tweeted. “This is almost as silly as Winston Churchill.”
Others said that the decision of the Academy of beating baby boomer nostalgia.
“I’m a fan of Dylan, but this is a nostalgic prize misconceived ripped rancid prostates of senile gibbering hippies,” the Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh tweeted.
In a way, it was a typical response to the work of Dylan, who throughout his career has been hailed as a brilliant and innovative stylist and yet occasionally puzzled critics face.
Dylan appeared on the music scene in New York in 1961 as an artist in the tradition of Woody Guthrie, singing protest songs and strumming an acoustic guitar in clubs and cafes of Greenwich Village. But from the start, Dylan was highlighted by dazzling lyrics and a style of composition oblique him a source of fascination for artists and critics did. In 1963, the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary reached No. 2 on the Billboard pop chart with a version of his song “Blowin ‘in the Wind” with choruses that evoked ambiguous Ecclesiastes.
In a few years, Mr. Dylan was confusing to the very notion of popular music, with increasingly complex songs and moves towards a more rock ‘n’ roll sound. In 1965, he played with a band electric rock at the Newport Folk Festival, stewing popular controversy among purists who accused him of selling out.
After reports of a motorcycle accident in 1966 near his home in Woodstock, N. Y., Dylan retreated further from public life, but remained intensely fertile composer. His career has continued to surprise fans and critics, and has resulted in one of the most densely analyzed bodies working in the history of pop music. Mr. Dylan large files, showing their work process through thousands of pages of draft composition, were acquired this year by the institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
His 1975 album “Blood on the Tracks” was interpreted as an extremely powerful account of the breakup of a relationship, but only four years later Christian themes of “Slow Train Coming” divided critics. His most recent two albums were traditional pop chestnuts that had been associated with Frank Sinatra.
Since 1988, Mr. Dylan has been touring almost constantly, inspiring an unofficial name of your itinerary, the Never Ending Tour. Last week, he played the first of two performances at the Desert travel, a festival in Indio, Calif., Which also featured the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and other stars of the 1960s.
Dylan was born on May 24, 1941, in Duluth, Minn., And grew up in Hibbing. He played in bands as a teenager, influenced by folk musician Woody Guthrie, the authors of the Beat Generation and the modernist poets.
Dylan, whose original name is Robert Allen Zimmerman, identified as Christian and has released several albums of songs of religious inspiration, but he was born into a Jewish family.
The critic Greil Marcus, one of the leading scholars of Dylan’s work has examined the influence on his music of Harry Smith of “Anthology of American Folk Music”, a compilation 1952 that it was essential for the folk revival in the United States. Dylan first heard the anthology in 1959 after leaving the University of Minnesota.
In 1962, shortly after arriving in New York, Dylan signed a contract with Columbia Records for their debut album, “Bob Dylan.”
Was only 22 when carried out at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, singing “When the Ship Comes In” with Joan Baez, and “Only a pawn in their game,” an account of the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, before the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther king Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech.
“As the ’60s wore on,” Giles Harvey wrote in The New York Review of Books in 2010, “Dylan became increasingly frustrated with what came to be regarded as the doctrinaire pious sloganeering and politics left the popular medium . ”
He “began to write a kind of verse without visionary sense, in the rough, ribald, America lawless traditional folk music of the country collided with a surreal set of characters from history, literature, legend, the Bible, and many other places besides. ”
many albums of Dylan, the Swedish Academy described as having “a tremendous impact on popular music,” include “Bringing It All Back Home” and “Highway 61 Revisited” (1965), “Blonde on Blonde” (1966) “Blood on the Tracks” (1975), “Oh Mercy” (1989), “time Out Of Mind” (1997), “Love and Theft” (2001) and “modern times” (2006).
The academy added: “Dylan has the status of an icon His influence on contemporary music is deep, and he is the subject of a steady stream of secondary literature.”.
Mr. Dylan many honors include Grammy, Academy and Golden Globe awards; It was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Roll in 1988 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
The Nobel comes with a prize of 8 million kronor, or just over $ 900,000. The literature prize is given for a lifetime of writing rather than a single work.
“At the time I was 23, Bob’s voice, with its weight, its unique power, gravel, was redefining not just what music sounded, but the message it carries and how people did not feel” President Obama said at the medal ceremony of honor.
“Today, everyone from Bruce Springsteen to U2, Bob owes a debt of gratitude. There is a bigger in the history of American music giant. All these years later, still is chasing that sound, still in looking for a bit of truth. And I have to say I’m a big fan.”